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What if Trayvon Martin was White?

Trayvon Martin

For weeks Pariotslog has been refraining from comment on the shooting of Trayvon Martin because there simply are not enough facts. All the evidence in the case is circumstantial at best, and the sum of the legal argument has essentially been limited to a contest of honesty. The press and defense both knew this, which is why we witnessed the mudslinging through media releases that Trayvon had been suspended three separate times, and had been found with marijuana; likewise, we heard that Zimmerman had a violent arrest record, and used his neighborhood watch status to elevate his ego because he could not be a law enforcement official. The fact is that when there is such an absence of evidence in a case such as this, arrests and prosecutions take time. This week, George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second degree murder. Many believe the Florida “stand your ground” law will lead to his acquittal because of the lack of evidence in the case. However, for all the attention the law is receiving it is interesting to note that it may not even apply in this case. There are two stories in this incident; the first, Zimmerman’s, is that he was attacked and being beaten by Trayvon Martin, and had to pull the trigger out of self-defense. The second, that of Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend–whom he was talking to on the phone just before the altercation–is that Zimmerman followed Trayvon and initiated the confrontation, shooting him for no reason. The stand your ground law is not applicable to either situation because either it was unjustified murder, or Zimmerman was assaulted and had to defend himself. The stand your ground law applies only in situations where one is threatened; in both sides of this story nobody was threatened, they were attacked. If Zimmerman is telling the truth, and he had not had a gun, it would have been him, not Martin who would have died. Read the rest of this entry

The Road Not Taken; Deficit Reduction

Comic Illustration of National DebtThroughout our nation’s history, Americans have found the courage to do right by our children’s future.  Deep down, every American knows we face a moment of truth once again.  We cannot play games or put off hard choices any longer.  Without regard to party, we have a patriotic duty to keep the promise of America to give our children and grandchildren a better life.
                 Our challenge is clear and inescapable:  America cannot be great if we go broke.  Our businesses will not be able to grow and create jobs, and our workers will not be able to compete successfully for the jobs of the future without a plan to get this crushing debt burden off our backs.
                Ever since the economic downturn, families across the country have huddled around kitchen tables, making tough choices about what they hold most dear and what they can learn to live without.  They expect and deserve their leaders to do the same. The American people are counting on us to put politics aside, pull together not pull apart, and agree on a plan to live within our means and make America strong for the long haul. Read the rest of this entry

The Reality of the Battle over Contraception

This week the news has been hijacked by the debate over President Obama mandating religious institutions to provide contraception coverage in their healthcare plans. The debate has become increasingly irritating because there are so many more noteworthy things of report this week. The economy is continuing to grow, the United States and Afghanistan have reportedly began talks with the Taliban which could end the war, a new online privacy bill was introduced in the senate, Iran apparently sent war ships to Syria to help their military, and the list can go on. However on top of all of this, the only news we have heard all week is the back and forth battle over mandating contraception coverage. The discussion should have ended last week when President Obama compromised on his politically sensitive mandate, but the intensity has only ramped up. The compromise would have allowed religiously affiliated institutions to be exempt from paying for the contraception, shifting the burden to the insurance companies, where the Obamacare law mandates insurance companies provide contraception anyway; after the debate continued all week long, and polls which showed President Obama was in the politically popular side of the argument, the President has apparently decided there will be no compromise. Religious institutions will not have a choice, and they will provide contraception to women despite their religious objections. Even a comment made as a joke by an aid to Rick Santorum about women practicing abstinence has become a political firestorm. Read the rest of this entry

Reforming American Public Education

In the middle of all the political tantrums and petulant partisan battles in Washington, one issue has been mutually agreed upon by all sides; improving our education system. President Obama, in last year’s State of the Union address illustrated perfectly the need for a better education system:

“Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education.  And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.  The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.  America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree.  And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed…When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance.  But too many schools don’t meet this test.” Read the rest of this entry

Obama Sets New Precedent: Making Recess Appointments with the Senate in Session

When the founding fathers structured our constitution, historians agree their fear was that Congress could become too powerful, and shut the legislative and executive branches out of the governing system, essentially becoming the government. This fear stemmed from the amount of power given to Congress in the constitution, which was done in order to prevent one man from becoming a ruler or monarch. Presidential power has been a centuries long experiment, revolving around how much a president can and should be able to do alone. When Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus many thought that outside the president’s abilities; likewise, many thought the president had no right to issue an emancipation proclamation. Since then many controversial executive orders have been issued; from the great depression “new deal” era, to President Bush after 9/11, presidential power has always been a fluid concept. So the unprecedented move by President Obama in bypassing the Senate to appoint a head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau no doubt struck controversy. The constitution clearly states that a president must have all department heads approved by the Senate unless the Senate is in recess. Yesterday President Obama appointed Richard Cordray as the head of the CFPB as well as three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) even though the Senate was not technically in recess. At first glance this seems clearly unconstitutional; however, the Obama team is arguing it is not, and their case is complicated. The Senate never officially recessed, meaning that President Obama has no constitutional grounds with which to appoint bureaucrats; however, the Senate has not been in on Capitol Hill as a body in weeks. In order to avoid these recess appointments the senators have been holding “pro-forma” sessions, where one of the closest republican senators comes in to the Senate chambers, bangs the gavel to signal the start of a session, then bangs it again to end the session. Thus the Senate is still technically in session, though in reality they are on a recess. Read the rest of this entry

Dysfunctional Congress

Slavery and secession. Though I know of nobody who supports slavery, the two words still bring up passionate feelings and discussions among all races in my home state of Kentucky and throughout the South. Are debt and taxes just as pivotal? Are they such hot button issues that we will continue to argue or avoid the super committee topic even 150 years down the road? This is highly unlikely, but you would not know it if you looked at our Congress; at least that is the conclusion of the book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. The book was written by two prestigious historians, Thomas Mann, the senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and draws some harsh conclusions toward the 112th Congress. According to their book, the last time Congress was this dysfunctional was in the years leading up to the civil war. Many polls have the approval rating of Congress in the single digits, and none above 15%; eyes can be seen glazed over whenever anyone so much as mentions Congress in a public discussion. It is clear that slavery and secession are far more drastic issues than those facing us today; nonetheless, Congress has manufactured one crisis after another this year, and the tension rivals that of the civil war era Congress. Despite all the troubles facing a nation literally torn apart in the 1850’s, U.S. history professor Daniel Feller, at the University of Tennessee said that “none of those involved the level of conflict within Congress itself that we see today.” Feller, who specializes in early to mid-1800’s American history also said “I think you’d have to go back to the 1850s to find a period of congressional dysfunction like the one we’re in today.” Read the rest of this entry

Payroll Tax Extension

$160 billion. To the government this is spare change, it amounts to roughly a mere 1.1% of the deficit the government has built. To American citizens, $160 billion means an extra $1000 for most families. That is how much money the new pay roll tax cut President Obama and the Congress have been bickering over for the better part of a month will save Americans. Most agree that the cut needs to be extended, though not all believe so. Predictably, the conflict has been over how to pay for the tax cut. Even more predictably, Democrats argue that the tax needs to be paid for by implementing a surtax on those making over $1 million; Republicans abhor this idea, arguing that spending cuts can be implemented to offset the revenue loss. The deadline for the extension is New Year’s Eve, when the current tax cut expires. If no deal is reached the payroll tax will increase 2% to the normal level of 6.2%. This week the Senate, unable to forge a deal to extend the cut into next year, passed a two month extension of the current cuts, giving them time to have a holiday recess and be able to continue the debate when they return, in hopes of passing a real extension for the entire year of 2012. The House voted on the Senate two month extension yesterday, and it was defeated in a partisan vote; Republicans against the short term extension and Democrats for it. This was surprising to many considering the right wing hatred of taxes. It was widely believed, particularly by Democrats, that House Speaker John Boehner (Rep, OH) was intentionally delaying a vote on the two month extension because he was aware that many republicans supported the bill and that a vote would lead to it passing. The House Republicans claim they want to create a long term deal before the deadline and not “kick the can” another 60 days. Read the rest of this entry

Constitutional rights and terrorism

Do terrorists deserve the protection which the citizens of the United States enjoy due to our constitutional rights? That question spawned an in intriguing debate in congress this week, as the senate passed a $662 billion defense bill. In itself the bill cuts defense spending by $43 billion from last year, as well as falling cutting $27 billion from the amount requested by President Obama for defense. The peculiar thing about this bill is not that it cut defense spending by six and a half percent, but that it attempted to address the matter of detaining and holding terrorists, and failed to do so. The question at the core of the debate was how to handle terrorists arrested on U.S. soil, and particularly those who are citizens. Can they be held indefinitely? Should the arrest and detention be handled by law enforcement, or the military? Do they deserve the right to an attorney and a criminal trial? All of these questions came up, and none were answered by this election wary senate. Read the rest of this entry

How to Fix Washington Gridlock

        The United States Congress has an all-time low approval rating; commentators often joke that those who do approve of Congress at this moment consist of their immediate family, and nobody else. President Obama is not fairing much better, holding the lowest approval rating of his presidency also; though the fact that he raised so much money in campaign contributions this quarter illustrates just how inaccurate these polls are. It has become next to impossible to find anyone who can say in complete honesty that our government is functioning. Democrats blame republicans, who point the finger right back; the poor blame the rich, the president blames Congress, and the web just keeps growing. We even see some who are still irrationally hanging on to their disdain of President Bush, blaming all our woes on him for no other reason than petulant bitterness (yes, some of our current problems were set in motion by Bush, but those comprise a fractional minority). Everyone in America is more than happy to blame their government, representative, neighbor or friend; everyone in the government is more than happy to blame the other party. The only thing we do not see is people taking any responsibility for the problems. One lone patriot by the name of Buffett is brave enough to step forward, admit the system is not working, and taking responsibility for that. He knows tax rates and breaks favor the rich, and he is taking responsibility for that, and trying to change it. Warren Buffett even invested billions of dollars of his own money to help banks which were struggling. Thank you for your good heart and generous pocket Mr. Buffett. For the other 320 million minus one of us in America, it is time to take a good long look what we have done wrong. How can we expect Congress to stop pointing the finger and acting if we do not do the same; they will not take responsibility until we do. Read the rest of this entry

Occupying Wall Street

Protesters Take Over New York City’s Financial District

In the midst of a week focused largely on the world of politics there is one story the media has largely not recognized. Contained in the news this week were an array of stories about bridge closures, Republican Presidential debates, the American Jobs Act, and the new Continuing Resolution which narrowly passed the House, and now is cooking up steam in the Senate. While jobs and economy are the dominant issues for both the government, and the Presidential Candidates, it has largely gone unnoticed that common American citizens have taken matters into their own hands. Appalled by the economy and unemployment, protesters in the masses have come together and camped out on Wall Street, at the heart of New York City’s financial district. This is not merely a baker’s dozen sign holders with bull horns, chanting their radical anti-rich and anti-government mantra; far from it. Reports show the numbers of protesters in the thousands. The pack, which calls themselves Occupy Wall Street, is not made up of homeless and underprivileged, as some may expect; rather, young, educated, and intelligent students, and young adults. Many are middle to upper middle class citizens, evidenced by the fact that in the crowd can be seen brand new laptops, tablets, and expensive phones. Why would so many busy young citizens take to the streets to occupy the financial center of the planet? The answer is a simple one: Wall Street needs to be punished. Read the rest of this entry

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